Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, February 19, 2023
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Is There Proof That You Love God and Neighbors?
Your Divine Judge Will Determine How Well You Have Done – Part 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In last Sunday’s RR, I discussed the two end-time judgments. Any person who ultimately enters Heaven will first appear at the Judgment Seat of the Messiah, also known as the Bema Judgment (Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; etc.). At this judgment, rewards will be given out or withheld, depending on the merits of a person’s life on Earth– that is, whether he/ she demonstrated love for God and neighbors through acts of kindness and service. Today, I will discuss more aspects of the Bema Judgment.
WHAT REWARDS MIGHT AWAIT YOU AT THE BEMA JUDGMENT? We are promised that Yeshua’s return in the clouds (not setting foot on the Earth) will signal the time of the end for Believers’ toils, the judgment, and Believers’ rewards (Revelation 22:10-12): Then he tells me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do righteousness, and the holy still be holy. Behold, I am coming soon, and My reward is with Me, to pay back each one according to his deeds.”
SIDELIGHT: The Apostle John is credited with writing both the Gospel of John and The Revelation. To me, The Revelation is not as crisply written as the Gospel. In this passage, John recorded a message he received in Heaven. The first speaker (“Do not seal…”) was an angel. It seems the second Speaker (“Let the evildoer…”) was probably Yeshua, although not clearly identified by John. Note that Yeshua assured John that “My reward is with Me, to pay back each one according to his deeds.” This statement reinforces the concept of a Bema Judgment and suggests this judgment occurs just after the Rapture/ Resurrection. In Revelation 22:12, Yeshua promised to come “soon” (“quickly” in other translations). Yeshua has not returned “quickly” by most standards. Was Yeshua wrong? Or, have the translators confused us? If we look at the Greek text, Yeshua used the word ταχύ (transliterated, tachy || pronounced, takh-OO). While “soon” and “quickly” are acceptable translations, an equally acceptable translation is “suddenly (by surprise).” “Suddenly by surprise” is a perfect description of the Rapture. It seems a better translation of this verse is: “Behold, I am coming suddenly.” END sidelight.
I can think of a few rewards that might await the faithful, productive Believer at the Bema Judgment, but there may be more. God only reveals to us what we need to know, but surely keeps most of His thoughts and plans to Himself (Isaiah 55:8-9): “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Consider the following possible rewards for righteous living:
● Reward 1– Crowns: The Bible describes several rewards, called “crowns,” that might be given at the Bema Judgment. In the B’rit Chadashah, the Greek word translated “crown” is στέφανος (transliterated, stephanos || pronounced, STEF-an-os). Stephanos is the same word for the laurel wreath given to the victor of the Greek races in Paul’s lifetime, the victor having been designated by the judge who sat on the bema. These Bema Judgment crowns may include:
□ Crown of Rejoicing for Soul Winners (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20): For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy!
□ Crown of Righteousness for the Love for Yeshua’s Return (2 Timothy 4:8): In the future there is reserved for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day– and not to me only, but also to everyone who has longed for His appearing.
□ Imperishable Crown for Victorious Life of Purity (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27): Every competitor exercises self-control in all respects. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. |…| Rather, I punish my body and bring it into submission, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
□ Crown of Life for a Believer’s Persecution or Martyrdom (Revelation 2:10): [Yeshua said] “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
□ Unfading Crown of Glory for a Faithful Servant (1 Peter 5:4): When the Chief Shepherd [Yeshua] appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
□ Crown of Life for Enduring Temptations for the Love of Yeshua (Jacob [James] 1:12): Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him.
□ Crown of Joy for Love of Brothers and Sisters in the Lord (Philippians 4:1): Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and long for, my joy and crown– stand firm in the Lord in this way, my loved ones.
□ Crown for Faithful Endurance (Revelation 3:11): [Yeshua said] “I am coming soon– hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”
□ Elder’s Crown (Revelation 4:4): Around the throne [of God in Heaven] were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders dressed in white clothes with golden crowns on their heads. (“Elders” translates πρεσβυτέρους– pronounced, pres-boo-TER-oos, which may indicate “senior, older persons; among Jews, members of the Sanhedrin; among Christians, rulers of churches [bishops, presbyters, elders]; and in this context, members of the Heavenly Sanhedrin, or Court, assembled before the Throne of God.”)
What might you do with any crown you receive? Think about the situation. You enter Paradise, and you long to continue your journey to Heaven. “Eye has not seen” the glories you see, as witnessed by Paul when he had a near-death experience and visited Paradise (1 Corinthians 2:9). The beauty and majesty of Paradise overwhelm you with appreciation. You thank God for His loving mercy, and you thank Yeshua for the vicarious sacrifice of Himself to cleanse you of sin.
What can you give in return? All of your possessions were left behind on Earth. All you have is your crown, just awarded at the Bema Judgment. This crown symbolizes the good things you accomplished on Earth for the love of the Triune God and your neighbors. Might you cast (throw) your crown(s) before Yeshua to show Him how much you appreciate what is gloriously happening to you? You decide your only possession(s) – your crown(s) – can be given to Yeshua because He is the Worthy One for your eternal devotion. Gratefully, you cast your crown before Yeshua’s feet.
Although this activity may seem strange to us, casting crowns at Yeshua’s feet is the example established by the twenty-four elders (Revelation 4:10-11): … the twenty-four elders fall down before the One seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. And they throw their crowns down before the throne, chanting, “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed and were created!”
● Reward 2– Bridal Clothing Preparation: The Bible teaches that every saint who enters Heaven will be spiritually married to the Bridegroom Yeshua (Revelation 19:7-9a): [A great multitude said] “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him! For the wedding of the Lamb [Yeshua] has come, and His bride [Believers] has made herself ready. She was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim.” Then the angel tells me, “Write: How fortunate are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!” (See also Ephesians 5:25-27): Husbands, love your wives just as Messiah also loved His community and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community– not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless.
Just as today’s bride may spend much time choosing the “perfect gown” for her big day, Believers apparently will want beautiful clothes to wear when they wed the Bridegroom Yeshua. The Believer creates the fine, bright, clean linen for his/ her own bridal clothing through righteous deeds on Earth (Revelation 19:8): [The voice of a great multitude explained to John] “She [Yeshua’s bride– Believers] was given fine linen to wear, bright and clean! For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the kedoshim.” [Kedoshim = “holy ones, saints”]
● Reward 3– Service in the Millennial Kingdom: After Yeshua’s Second Coming to Earth (at the Battle of Armageddon and before New Jerusalem [Heaven] descends to Earth), He will establish a one-thousand year reign on Earth (the Millennial Kingdom). The Earth will be heavily populated with raptured/ resurrected Believers (saints), angels, and humans (those left behind– the “sheep” in the Parable of the Righteous Judge [Matthew 25:31-46]). Angels and saints (Believers with glorified bodies) will not reproduce, but the humans will reproduce. The human population will burgeon, and these humans will need mentors and role models. Angels and saints will be tasked with assisting Yeshua administer this teeming world, mentoring (teaching) the growing human population, and instructing them to avoid the final rebellion against God (the Second Battle of Gog and Magog). Do not confuse the second Gog and Magog rebellion (Revelation, chapter 20) with the first Gog and Magog battle (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39).
Yeshua alluded to service in the Millennial Kingdom in some of His parables, especially the Parables of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), and the Minas (Luke 19:11-27).
From the Parable of the Minas, for example, consider Luke 19:22-27: [Yeshua said] “He [the master in the parable, representative of Yeshua] said to him [the lazy servant], ‘By the words of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked slave! You knew that I am strict, taking what I did not make and reaping what I did not sow? Then why didn’t you put my money in the bank, so that when I came back I could have collected it with interest?’ Then to the bystanders he said, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten minas!’ I tell you, to everyone who has, more shall be given. But from the one who doesn’t have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But those hostile to me, who didn’t want me to reign over them, bring them here and execute them before me.”
Notice in the Parable of the Minas, the master, who represents Yeshua, said to the productive servant, who represents faithful Believers (Luke 19:17b): “… Because you were faithful with so little, take charge over ten cities.” The Millennial Kingdom will exist for one-thousand years. One-thousand years is a long time. You will want your thousand-year service (job, assignment) to be interesting, productive, and appreciated. Your work for God’s Kingdom now in this life is your application for your next job in the Millennial Kingdom. If you are faithful in small things in this life, then Yeshua can entrust you with larger things in the next life.
● Reward 4– Personal Commendation from Yeshua (?): Although not specified in Scriptures, might it be that Yeshua could personally thank a Believer for his/ her efforts to spread the Gospel and to serve and love others? At your Bema Judgment, you may be blessed to hear from Yeshua, as He smiles at you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Such affirmation and appreciation from Yeshua may mean so very much more in the future, than it might mean now.
● Reward 5– Greater appreciation of Heaven (?): Although not specified in Scriptures, might it be that the Believer (Saint) who earns entrance into Heaven through much work (a hard-working Believer) will enjoy Heaven more than a lazy Believer who just barely squeaks through the gates of pearl?
Suppose a world-renown pianist is coming to Knoxville to give a Mozart recital. I have three tickets to that recital. I give the first ticket to a pianist who has studied at the Julliard School of Music and has spent a lifetime practicing, studying, and performing Mozart’s music. I give the second ticket to a person who listens occasionally to classical music on public radio, while driving to and from work. I give the third ticket to a teenager who listens only to, like, pop music, man. Of the three persons who received a ticket from me, who do you think enjoyed the pianist’s recital the most? I suspect that the more a Believer works to enter Heaven and who longs for that blessed place the most will enjoy and appreciate eternal life the most.
● Reward 6– Transformation into a Saint (?): I have written this RR very hurriedly, and have not had time to research certain statements (including this section). If I am in error, please email Rabbi Weiner, who will forward your comments to me, and I will be grateful for your teaching.
“Saint” translates the Hebrew Qadosh or Greek Hagios, and means “a most holy thing (person).” “Most holy” implies complete absence of sin. Most (all?) Believers die in sin. In Heaven, all must be completely free of sin (“overcomers” of sin– see Revelation, chapters 2 and 3). At some point between the time of death and appearance in Heaven, every person must be cleansed of sin through God’s grace and Yeshua’s sacrificial death.
Could it be the Bema Judgment where Yeshua announces God’s pardon of sin to every Believer appearing before Him? Although the Bible is silent on this matter (unless you show me otherwise), it seems this judgment may be the most logical time for Yeshua to announce that we have been transformed from sinful men and women to sinless saints. Such transformation may be the greatest reward issued at the Bema Judgment. You will be a saint in Heaven far longer than you will possess your crown(s).
Some denominations confer sainthood on certain people. The Roman Catholic Church cannot give an accurate number for the saints this church has recognized, but it exceeds 10,000 saints. In my opinion, it is improper for humans to confer sainthood on any sinful human. I believe sainthood can be conferred only by Yeshua– after God’s final pardon of humans from earthly sins.
● Other rewards (?): There may be other rewards given at the Bema Judgment but not foretold in Scriptures. God is always more generous to us than we are to Him, when it involves good works (2 Corinthians 9:8): And God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that by always having enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work.
FAITH? WORKS? The Bema Judgment opens up a contentious debate among Believers. Do we enter Heaven through faith, or works, or are both important? Some Believers become apoplectic even entertaining the notion that anything at all is important except faith– and faith alone, not works– in Yeshua.
Paul wrote in several passages that salvation is acquired as a gift of God through belief in Yeshua (Ephesians 2:8-9): For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves– it is the gift of God. It is not based on deeds, so that no one may boast. – AND – (Romans 3:20): For no human, on the basis of Torah observance, will be set right in His [God’s] sight– for through the Torah comes awareness of sin.
Jacob (James) apparently heard the same debate, tempering Paul’s position and answering the question eloquently (Jacob [James] 2:14-26): What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in shalom, keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is that? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe– and shudder! But do you want to know, you empty person, that faith without works is dead? Wasn’t Abraham our father proved righteous by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked together with his works, and by the works his faith was made complete. The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” – and he was called God’s friend. You see that a man is proved righteous by works and not by faith alone. And likewise, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also proved righteous by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Yeshua taught the Parable of the Righteous Judge (Matthew 25:31-46). This parable is also called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. In this parable, Yeshua told of a king who left His servants behind for awhile. The King represented Yeshua; the servants represented Believers; and the time the King and servants were separated represented the present Age of Grace. When the King returned, He gathered all Believers (“all nations”) before Him, and separated the people, as the Good Shepherd He is, into two groups– sheep (faithful workers) on His right and goats (unproductive workers) on His left. He tested all with questions of good works for others. Did you feed Me, when I was hungry? Did you give Me drink, when I was thirsty? Did you invite Me into your home, when I was a stranger? Did you clothe Me, when I was naked? Did you visit Me, when I was sick? Did you visit Me, when I was in prison?
Those listening were puzzled, and asked, “Lord, when did we ever see you in these pitiful conditions and not tend to Your needs?”
The King (Yeshua) answered (Matthew 25:45-46): “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Amen, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ These shall go off to everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.” When a Believer ministers to someone (a neighbor) in need, it is ministering to Yeshua. When a Believer fails to minister to someone (a neighbor) in need, it is refusal to minister to Yeshua. Note the high stakes for service– those who served others were awarded with everlasting life (Heaven), but those who failed to serve others were awarded with everlasting punishment (Hell).
A passage in Hebrews is intriguing (Hebrews 13:1-2): Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers– for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it. God tests us (multiple Scriptures). Could some of the homeless people, widows and orphans, drug addicts, and other needy persons in reality be angels posing as humans? Could the way we treat such acting angels be a test given to us? I have personally encountered inexplicable situations in which I wondered (in retrospect), what just happened here? Who was that “person” I just talked to? Have you ever had surreal encounters in which you look back, and think: Was that a real person, or who/ what else could it have been?
SIDELIGHT: I have not uncommonly encountered panhandlers, who ask me for money. In the past, I was a “soft touch” for such people. I now know that many of them are drug addicts who will use money from me and others to buy more drugs. Do I give the panhandler money, on the theory that I am helping “one of the least of these, Yeshua’s brother/ sister,” knowing in reality that I am supporting a drug habit? Or, do I walk away, failing to show compassion to one of “the least of these?” Quite a dilemma! If I had the time, I would offer to take the panhandler to the nearest McDonald’s and have lunch with him/ her. The panhandler’s response might be most interesting. END sidelight.
CONCLUSION: I have again run out of space, and there is so much more that needs to be written. I will conclude this series next Sunday with some practical tips for Bema Judgment preparation. Now is the “day,” when we can work; when Yeshua returns, it will be the “night” when we cannot work (John 9:4): [Yeshua said] “We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work.” Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 19-Feb-2023 28th of Sh’vat, 5783
Ex 25:1-16 2 Ki 14 Ps 139 Jn 12:20-50 (Tit 1)